Every Christmas morning as a child, I would look into the backyard expecting to find a pony. To say I was horse-crazy was putting it mildly. No dolls for me. Give me the plastic and china horses collected from a gift shop and saddlery named The Surrey.
Even though I was always disappointed to see grass and trees or snow in the backyard on December 25, my parents still nourished my enchantment with horses. My fondest memory of a Christmas gift was the large-scale wooden stable my father crafted for me out of pine. He knew what I would love and many hours of imaginative miniature horseplay passed between my sisters and friends and me — with the same intensity as other girls played with their dollhouses.
Growing up in an era before leash laws–in a tranquil suburban/rural area with placid speed limits — everyone let their dogs roam outside. Dining and roaming is what they did. It was a progressive doggie supper with pooches making the circuit to neighbors’ doors for homemade morsels or mini-milk bones.
In gradeschool I was blessed to have a dog — one very smart poodle — who knew how to jump like a horse. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Many years before dog agility training was in vogue, we were in the backyard training our quick-study canine to complete a course of high jumps, in-and-outs and water obstacles over the fish pond in the woods. He was a happy, well-exercised pet and we had our less expensive horse substitute.
Last week, on spring break in Arizona, I had my own emotional obstacle course with horses and dogs on the same day.
The horse part was the emotional high. I shared a trail ride through the Kaibab National Forest near the Grand Canyon with our daughter. It was a perfect, sunny day with just the right amount of coolness that horses love. We passed acres of fragrant Ponderosa and Pinyon pines (the latter, the producer of those tasty pine nuts I love), and sage brush that is cumulatively poisonous to horses. It acts like loco-weed.
The ranch hands sized up the ten of us and matched us to our horses. Our daughter had a lively Quarter Horse known to be a character who liked to lead other horses into the field for fun frolics. (Yes, they matched her correctly.) I had to laugh when they gave me a sturdy Apaloosa and Percheron blend with the serious admonition that I not allow her to graze on the sage brush. (So, they could see right through me and know I can graze on things that are slightly poisonous for me too, eh?) Yes, they matched all of us well for a pleasurable, educational ride through the high plateau forest.
But when we returned to our canyon hotel room, the cellphone rang. It’s ominous to think that this technology works even on the edge of the earth’s abyss. The pet hotel told me that my dear friend and walking buddy had suffered a series of canine seizures. They wouldn’t keep her and it was close to eight in the evening. To the rescue came our phenomenal veterinarian who had his brother claim our pet and then worked to find out what was causing her seizures, sedate her to sleep and safely medically board her until our return.
My husband is my best friend, of course. But we talk about complicated things like family and business and politics. It shook me terribly to hear that my other best friend was so sick and I couldn’t be there. There’s no talk of complicated things with my other best friend. It’s a simple relationship of feeding and walking and running and enjoying nature. Any talking is relegated to, “oh, so you want to go there?” or simply, “Here’s your food. Come and eat, now.”
Prayer was the only way to calm me that night. I couldn’t do my usual emotional talk-out with my best human friend, my husband, for fear of further distressing our daughter. The dog is her pet too.
At the end of a restless night, I had the answer to my prayer. It was a deep reassurance that He had given me the gift of a precious husband and daughter. They were the priority no matter how worried I was about my furry friend. And, as I was fortunate to find out, He cares for animals too. The vet stabilized our dog and when we return home we can care for her to the best of our ability — with His help.
As I searched for a Bible verse that could make sense of my attachment to a pet, it came as an understanding that animals are His creation too, just like the Grand Canyon. Genesis 1:25, “God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.”
Blessings and kind regards to you all.